Aug. 29, 2005, will forever mark the Crescent City, but now, a decade later, we have seen ourselves rise from ravage to renewal.
Important dates become signatures for so many organizations and deserve recognition. On a recent Thursday, Amistad Research Center turned to a special date that showed the spirit of courage, tenacity and determination.
Held in the Ile de France Ballroom of the JW Marriott Hotel, Amistad Research Center celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 at a luncheon. The center “is the nation’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive independent archive specializing in the history of African Americans and other ethnic minorities.” Additionally, it was the first archive to document the modern civil rights movement. It is located in Tilton Hall on the campus of Tulane University.
As guests assembled during the pre-luncheon reception, they were entertained by St. Augustine High School’s brass band. Dr. Kara Olidge, a New Orleans native, gave remarks as Amistad’s new executive director.
Amistad board President Kim Boyle, a partner in the law firm of Phelps Dunbar, launched the program with her words of welcome. The next ones at the lectern were from the Rev. Roderick Coates, vicar general of the Josephite Society, who gave the invocation (and invoked a blessing for the center), and Christian Williams, a student at Jackson State University, in Jackson, Mississippi. A summer intern at the center, Williams gave remarks about the Voting Rights Act. Then came St. Augustine rising senior Jereald James III, who talked about his school and its history, as well as voting rights. After his dynamic presentation, Boyle addressed the crowd, saying “That’s what this is about.”
President Boyle then asked all elected and appointed officials in the audience to stand. Lunch service followed, starting with a main-course salad with chicken and concluded with a lemon mini pie.
All the while, guests made quick trips to the silent auction.
Dr. Lance Query, an Amistad board member and dean of library services at Tulane, was tapped to introduce the guest speaker, Dr. Lawrence Powell. But before the keynote address occurred, Query was recognized for his exemplary work as the interim executive director of the center, a position for which he volunteered. In appreciation, Boyle presented him with a Jacob Lawrence print.
Tulane’s Powell is Larry to kin and kith, and the author of “The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans.” The book tells the story of “America’s most beguiling metropolis (that) started out as a snake-infested, hurricane-battered swamp.” At the Amistad luncheon, Powell gave the keynote address addressing the history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act “and the current status of the act in light of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence.”
Further headliners were Justin Augustine, chairman of the board of directors of St. Augustine High School, who received the Amistad Heritage Award as presented by the center and Olidge; and Dr. Norman C. Francis, recently retired president of Xavier University in New Orleans. He held that position for 47 years. He flew in from out of town for the luncheon and presented dynamic closing remarks concerning the impact of the Voting Rights Act on all Americans, the positive impact on the country and the necessity for continuance.
Within the assembly of 200 were Deputy Mayor of New Orleans Judy Reese Morse, City Councilman James Gray, and Fourth Circuit Judges Terri Love (an Amistad board member), Roland Belsome and Paul Bonin. And Civil District Court Judges Kern Reese (chief judge), Ethel Simms Julien, Piper Griffin, Tiffany Chase, Regina Woods and Bernadette D’Souza. Answering to 1st City Court Judges were Angelique Reed, Veronica Henry and Teena Anderson-Trahan.
Breaking bread, too, and all with titles, were Ellen Hazeur, Tricia R. Pierce, Kandace R. Hamilton and Amber Tucker. Nearby were the Louis Martinet Legal Society President Cashauna Hill; former Louisiana State Bar Association Presidents Wayne Lee and Marta Schnabel; and incoming New Orleans Bar Association President Judy Barrasso.
Still others were Amistad board members Sybil Morial, Janice Sumier-Edmond (in from Houston) and Dr. Roseanne Adderly; Tulane University Provost Dr. Michael Bernstein, Nan Alessandra and Chris Ralston from Phelps Dunbar LLP; Dr. Silas Lee; and Ron Carrere from Liberty Bank. Bountiful thanks were directed to the table sponsors: U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, Dr. Charles Teamer, Ed Dees, and Allen Miller, as well as to the above Judge Love, Phelps Dunbar, Liberty Bank, Tulane University, Greater New Orleans Martinet Legal Society, Olidge, Boyle and Lee.
Adding amical competition was the silent auction and “surprise give-away.” A one-night stay in the JW Marriott, a print (“The Amistad Revisited”) by David Driskell, a “give-away” by the National WWII Museum, and a gift certificate from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse revved up the luncheon crowd.
After the edification of the meal, the assembly, the purpose and the talks, guests departed with gifts. Everyone received a gift bag with the book “Gumbo People,” by Sybil Klein.
n Hospitality Leaders’ Next Generation
Since Katrina, the number of restaurants in the Crescent City has doubled. Hospitality is a vital force, one of the most important for myriad of reasons.
On a recent Saturday evening, about 500 people headed to the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and its Grand Ballroom for the 5 Star Futures Gala benefiting the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation. “An evening to recognize today’s industry leaders and support the education of the next generation of hospitality leaders” was the billing.
Gala Chairman Dwight Barnes opened the program with a welcome. Then came 2015 National Restaurant Association Chairman Jack Crawford for remarks, foundation Prostart Educator of the Year Judy Achary, scholarship awards recipients, the live auction under the spirited auctioneering of Greg Reggio, of Taste Buds Management, LRA President and CEO Stan Harris and LRA Chairman Tony Abadie for the LRA awards. A hand for Associate Member of the Year Brian Girardot, of Community Coffee, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond as Advocate of the Year, chef John Folse (Hall of Fame inductee) and Restaurateur of the Year Melvin Rodrigue, of Galatoire’s restaurants!
Needless to say, the delights of dinner were prominent. LRAers supped on a salad of baby mesclun greens, mushroom ravioli and jumbo sea scallops, jumbo stuffed shrimp and top loin filet, and frozen mascarpone lemon curd bombe. Libations were donated. Atop the white-napped tables were arrangements from Convention Plant Designs of fruits and vegetables.
Several auction items added to the organization’s coffers. “Fishing in Louisiana’s Outback” was the top draw in the silent portion, and for the live part, Reggio fetched $7,000 for “Private Gourmet Party.”
Mastheaders were numerous with, in their ranks, state Rep. Walt and Danielle Leger, state Rep. Nick and Michelle Lorusso, Abadie and spouse Debbie, Peter and Michelle Sclafani, Margaret Dubuisson Blitch, Ruffin and Alison Rodrigue, Laulie Folse with chef John, chef Rick Tramonto, Katy Casbarian, Mike and Lori Rodrigue, red-outfitted Klara Cvitanovich (“No, I didn’t wear this in the Red Dress Run!”) and son Tommy, Ralph Brennan, Mike and Alicia Maenza, and Brodie and Alice Glenn.
Ultimately, the night belonged to the 2015 LRA Education Foundation Scholarship recipients and award winners, 33 total from around the state, for whom the hospitality future looks bright.